Has your dog recently suffered from ticks, or are you interested in finding out what to do if your dog gets a tick? Being aware of the symptoms and learning the appropriate methods to respond to a tick bite ensures that you are well-equipped to protect your pet.
What is a tick and where are they found?
A tick is a very small, insect like parasite which feeds of warm-blooded hosts, which sadly includes our pets. They most commonly reside in long grasses which allows them to attach to animals as they brush past. Once the tick is ‘on board’, they tend to migrate to most warm and moist parts of your pets’ body, such as:
- Under their tail
- In their ears
- Under their legs
- Around their eyes and nose
- Between paw pads
- Under their collar
However, this is not always the case, and you should regularly check your pet all over post-walk.
Ticks are unique in comparison to other ‘biting bugs’ because they can stay attached to the host for up to 10 days after biting them, where they will continue to draw blood and grow. As the tick bites, damaging bacteria and parasites that are contained within their saliva are passed into our pets, resulting in infection. It goes without saying, the longer the tick is bound to your pet, the higher the risk of infection.
Therefore, if you usually walk your dog through woodland or on the beach regularly, we strongly recommend giving your dog a routinely check over when you return home to make sure the tick is removed after the shortest period of time possible.
What happens when my dog has been bitten by a tick?
The severity of a tick bite reaction can vary. In some cases, the tick bite presents no physical signs or symptoms. In other mild cases, a red or discoloured bump may rise, similar to that of a mosquito bite. This should only last around 2 – 3 days and then subside.
What does an allergic reaction to a tick bite look like?
Some dogs are allergic to tick bites and in turn experience worse symptoms including:
- Burning sensation
- Blistering of the skin
- Shortness of breath in severely allergic dogs
If you witness these symptoms in your dog, please seek veterinary help as soon as possible.
How do I know if my dog has Lyme disease from a tick?
However, an allergic reaction is not the worst-case scenario. Tick bites can result in your dog developing Lyme disease. But what is Lyme disease?
Unfortunately, Lyme disease is a common bacterial canine disease which is caused by a specific species of bacteria that is found in some, but not all ticks. Once the tick that is carrying the damaging bacteria has been attached to a dog for a period of 24-48 hours, the bacteria is inserted into the dog’s bloodstream. Once within the bloodstream, the bacteria can travel all around the body to crucial organs, as well as other locations such as joints to cause damage.
The typical symptoms of Lyme disease include:
- Reduced energy / fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Stiffness / discomfort
- Swelling of lymph nodes
- Swelling of joints
These symptoms can progress to kidney failure, and cause negative cardiac and neurological effects, which can become fatal. If you witness these symptoms in your dog, please seek Veterinary help as soon as possible.
Although Lyme Disease can be fatal, if detected quickly, antibiotics can resolve symptoms in 30 days. Therapies are also available for relieving specific symptoms including impaired mobility. This reinforces the importance of regular checks and rapid detection and diagnosis.
There is also a vaccination available for you dog to get to prevent them contracting Lyme disease, however this is not the solution for all dogs and is a topic that you should discuss with your vet.
What should I do if my dog gets a tick bite? Step-by-step
- I’m sure it is not just my dog that stays excitable, even an hour or so after returning home from a walk. Take the time to make sure your dog has calmed and is able to sit still before looking for ticks as a wiggly dog will make this process much more difficult and uncomfortable for them.
- When a tick has been spotted, gently spread / move the surrounding hair so you have a clear view of the bite area.
- Either using tweezers, or your hands, grip the tick as close to the skin as possible. Ensure that either your hands are clean, or your equipment is well sterilised.
- To avoid infected blood re-entering your dog’s system, or parts of the tick being left behind, pull the tick straight upwards in a steady motion. Do not squeeze or twist the tick as this can lead to further infection.
- If there are any small parts of tick left behind, carefully remove these.
- Clean the bite with water and soap and then follow with rubbing alcohol or wound spray to kill any remaining bacteria the tick could have been carrying.
- To prevent yourself or your dog from being bitten again, you must kill the tick. The most effective way is to submerge the parasite in alcohol.
- If your dog develops a reaction, contact your vet, and show them the tick that bit your dog. This will ensure your dog gets the most effective treatment as quickly as possible.
What is the best method of tick prevention for dogs?
Despite being their tiny size, the detrimental effects that ticks can have on our dogs are huge. This is something we want to avoid at all costs. Although there are vaccinations and treatments available to us, the most effective way to protect your pet is prevention.
If you are lucky enough to have access to woodlands and beaches to walk through with your dogs, you must check their skin. You can ask your vet to check and teach you how to check if you aren’t too sure how to do so effectively.
Another prevention method is to regularly cut your lawn, so those pesky ticks no longer have somewhere to hide.
Furthermore, use repellent products and sprays. It is not always easy to keep your dog by your side when all they want to do is have a sniff and adventure. The repellent sprays allow both you and your dog to enjoy your walk stress-free.